Canadian Underwriter

How insurers are approaching mandatory vaccinations

September 15, 2021   by Jason Contant

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Two Canadian mutual insurers have announced they are implementing vaccination policies for their workforces.

Gore Mutual Insurance Company and Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company made the announcements earlier this week.

“After hearing from employees, and keeping the health and well-being at the forefront of our decision-making, Gore Mutual has decided that all employees returning will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to work on-site in our offices,” Gore Mutual’s chief executive officer Andy Taylor told Canadian Underwriter Monday. “In a recent employee survey, approximately 75% responded ‘yes’ that they would feel more comfortable going into the office knowing their colleagues are fully or partially vaccinated.”

For employees that are not vaccinated, they will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test prior to entering the offices, Taylor said. He added that Gore Mutual is also working on requirements for non-employees if they are required to be on-site for any reason.

Gore Mutual employees can return to the office beginning Oct. 1 on a voluntary basis. This is not mandatory and remains optional for all employees.

For Wawanesa Insurance, their focus has also been on looking out for the health and well-being of their employees, as well as customers and communities. “Earlier this week, we announced to employees that, effective Oct. 31, 2021, any employee who chooses to return to the office, as well as any contractor or visitor who enters a Wawanesa office or conducts face-to-face business on our behalf, will need to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19,” a Wawanesa spokesperson told Canadian Underwriter Wednesday. “We are currently finalizing the processes to support this policy.”

Wawanesa is also closely monitoring and following public health guidelines in all regions. “We are proceeding with a regionally-based office opening, so long as it is allowed by the local provincial or state health guidelines,” the spokesperson said, adding that in Alberta and Quebec, the insurer will not yet be opening their offices for this reason. “As of Sept. 15, employees who choose to return to the office can do so, provided they are fully vaccinated. The vast majority of employees, however, have chosen to continue working remotely for the time being.”

For Desjardins, it is premature to comment on their vaccine mandate, as it remains a work in progress. “Employees who are able to work from home, whether they’re part of the caisse network, the business sectors or the support functions, will continue to telework,” a spokesperson said Thursday. “Currently, more than 80% of our employees are working from home. We will continue to rigorously apply the sanitary measures in force to limit the spread of the virus.”

The Co-operators told Canadian Underwriter that they are continuing to prioritize the health and safety of employees, families, and communities by delaying a return to office for corporate staff. “Recognizing the fluidity of the pandemic, any return to office plans will follow a gradual, phased approach,” a spokesperson said Thursday. “To maintain its commitment to the guiding principles of minimizing risk to people and not contributing to the spread of COVID-19, The Co-operators is thoughtfully discussing what a vaccination standard will look like for the return of employees to corporate offices. To continue to best serve clients, financial advisors are in office, with robust health protocols to keep advisors, clients, and communities safe.”

Travelers Canada said “at this time, Travelers is strongly encouraging its employees to get vaccinated. In light of rising COVID-19 cases, Travelers has not yet set a date for its broader return to the office. However, when employees do return, they will have the option of a hybrid work arrangement.”

Canadian Underwriter reached out to about 10 Canadian property and casualty insurers in total to see if they had, or are considering, mandatory vaccination policies, and their plans for return to the office. Some reported that they are still working on their return-to-office plans, or did not want to publicly disclose their plans. Others were not available for comment.

On the life insurance side, large carrier Manulife Financial Corp. recently announced that it will require employees in Canada to provide proof of vaccination status by the end of October, and will require unvaccinated staff to undergo regular COVID-19 testing before they work in its offices.

Any employee who is not fully vaccinated will be required to complete twice-weekly COVID-19 testing, and comply with additional health and safety measures, including wearing masks, to work in office or attend a Manulife-hosted event, Bloomberg reported. Other attendees at those events will also have to show proof of vaccination.

Manulife hasn’t set a date yet for bringing staff back to offices. Only essential workers are allowed through the rest of 2021.

Four of the ‘Big Five’ Canadian banks are also requiring workers to be fully vaccinated. TD Bank, CIBC, Bank of Montreal and Royal Bank of Canada have already announced their vaccine requirements. And Bank of Nova Scotia is “moving in the direction of making vaccinations mandatory for all Canadian-based employees, and contractors, later in the fall,” Bloomberg reported last month.


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